Elderly people with irreversible vision problems have shorter lifespans than their peers, a new study has revealed.

An international team has found that visual problems that cannot be corrected are associated with increased risk of death among individuals between the ages of 49 and 74, and all visual impairments may be associated with the risk of death in older adults, the Archives of Ophthalmology reported.

Visual impairment has been associated with a higher risk of death as well as factors that may lead to increased death such as unintentional injury, depression, lower body mass index (BMI), reduced walking speeds, increased risk of falls, according to scientists.

“Correction for these ‘confounders’ has been found to attenuate the association between visual impairment and mortality, but the mechanisms behind the association between visual impairment and mortality remain to be determined,” team leader Michael J. Karpa of Westmead Millennium Institute said.

The scientists examined visual impairment in 3,654 participants aged 49 and older between 1992 and 1994 and after five and ten years, to evaluate the relationship between visual impairment and death risk among older individuals.

At baseline, participants with non-correctable visual impairment were more likely to be female, age 75 and older and underweight. Those with correctable visual impairment were more likely to be age 75 and older, but had no difference in proportions of women or BMI.

Thirteen years after baseline, 1,273 participants had died. A higher risk of dying was linked to noncorrectable visual impairment, with a stronger association for participants younger than age 75.

“The analyses revealed greater effects of non-correctable visual impairment on mortality risk, with both direct and indirect effects. Of mortality risk markers examined only disability in walking demonstrated a significant pathway for the link between visual impairment and mortality.

“In conclusion, this study reaffirms that visual impairment is associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality,” the scientists said.

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